Wednesday, October 24, 2018

cut to pieces – a challenging biblical text in the time of Jamal Khashoggi

As a KCML team, we gather weekly for a team meeting. Before we get down to our agenda, we share our comings and goings. We read Scripture, often the lectionary reading for that day.

The Gospel reading for today, from Luke is 12:39-48, is particularly challenging. I was tempted to skip it, but then realised how some of the worst parts actually sound so relevant. Take Luke 12:46 – The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces – a real doozy given the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, cut to pieces in a Turkish embassy. The violence of Biblical times is still with us in the 21st century.

So we decided to take up the challenge. We began with lectio divina. The Gospel reading was read twice. The first time we invited each to hear cynically. Where was the Word of the Lord in what jarred us? The second time we were invited to hear with wonder. Where was the Word of the Lord in what made us optimistic?

The discussion that resulted was rich and generous. We as KCML have been left – the optimistic reading – with the blessing of “food allowance at the proper time” (42). We have been blessed and yet, the cynical reading – we can “eat and drink and get drunk” (45) We talked about the temptations that we face – what it means for each of us, as a team and in our vocations, be faithful in this season.

Finally, I offered some thoughts from scholarship: from the helpful About Earth’s Child: An Ecological Listening to the Gospel of Luke the Earth Bible Commentary, from former colleague, Michael Trainor. It seeks to listen to Scripture through listening for ecology as an actor.

First, an endorsement of the double lectio approach – the cynical reading, followed by the optimistic reading – in the abundant cf selfish words:

Luke’s main point concerns an abundant and selfish possessiveness that creates disparity among one another and deflects the disciple from what is important: God. (189)

Second, in response to “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” (41) The call not only to focus on our relationship with God, but with each other. We are in a very difficult season as KCML, our futures not currently in our hands. And so the abundance given to us by God needs to be shared among us, in our values as a team, the way we engage with each other.

The disciples are “to take care of each member of Jesus’ household with care and respect” (190)

A challenging text. A call to be human and treat other humans, with a generous dignity. Which actually says a lot to a world in which people are being cut to pieces; physically, politically and for profit.

Posted by steve at 08:37 PM

Friday, October 12, 2018

3 years in: a KCML post-it progress update

I began as Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership 3 years ago today. This very day – newly back in New Zealand, new to Dunedin, new to the Presbyterian Church of Aoteroa New Zealand, I nervously approached the large, foreboding doors of the Hewitson Wing.

My first day/lectionary text is recorded here, my first staff devotional here and my end of first week “three words” reflections here.

An anniversary is a good a time as any for reflection, so I took a bit of time to write some poetry this morning, while this afternoon I pondered the KCML Strategic plan. The Strategic plan was approved by Council of Assembly in June 2016 and was effectively my first 9 months of work, across the 5 geographic Presbyteries and 3 Synod’s, engaging, listening, testing various parts.

The KCML strategic plan involves 4 key directions.

  • contextually agile ministers (Nationally ordained) – ensuring training prepares people for a diverse New Zealand, across cultures and generations.
  • innovation through New Mission Seedlings – building capacity across the church by forming long-term local site partnerships between Presbytery, KCML and various funding groups in order to nurture fresh expressions of faith as locations for training of ministers, leaders and learning for the wider church
  • national learning – finding ways to provide leadership resourcing for all ministry agents in the Presbyterian Church
  • lifelong learning – resourcing existing ordained ministers as the world changes rapidly

Since then, the decisions of General Assembly 2016 have added a further direction

  • the resourcing of Local Ordained Ministers

Three years in; and just over 2 years on from gaining the green light from Council of Assembly, there has been progress across all areas. Each post-it is an explanatory blog post in its own right, but there is a pleasing spread of colour and activity. There is also increasing overlap, as Lighthouse innovation incubator weaves into the New Mission Seedlings and the livinglibrary website becomes a locator for both national learning and lifelong learning.  There is much that beckons into 2019.

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Alongside the visibility of post-it notes of progress, there has been lots of other activity as the KCML team have sought to be faithful to the call of the church. In some ways, this has been the most complex thing to navigate. The strategic plan has come on top of existing activity. Without additional people resources – in fact with diminished people resources – we’ve struggled to balance priorities from the past alongside the pressures of the present and the possibilities of the future.

Posted by steve at 02:07 PM

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Innovation and congregations: Built for change (for Thursday, Monday)

My first teaching session in Scotland, for the Church of Scotland – is titled Innovation and Congregations. I’ve been asked to offer Biblical, theological and spiritual resources, drawing from my Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration book.

For those attending the workshop and for the sake of the environment (or technology preferences), want an electronic copy, here is a copy of my note – Innovation and congregations: Built for change Thursday workshop.

Posted by steve at 09:49 AM

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christ-based innovation

A few weeks ago, I provided spiritual wisdom in an Educating for innovation weekend run by KCML. Seven teams from around New Zealand were brought together. They were offered a fabulous location and invited to work on taking ideas to opportunity for their local community context.

We worked with Dr Christine Woods from University of Auckland Business School, who was invited to walk us through the processes she used with small businesses and in Maori innovation. In planning the weekend, she was careful. “In working with Maori, I quickly realised I can’t just add on a bit of Maori to my existing work. I needed to begin with Maori values. So in this weekend, we can’t just add on a bit of Jesus. We need to begin with Christian values.”

I grinned. I had just written a book on faith-based innovation. In Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration I read Paul in light of Christ, using six images from 1 Corinthians 3 and 4. This includes an entire chapter on Jesus the innovator.

So here is how I introduced the weekend, a beginning located in Christ-based innovation:

We gather as whanua (family) of Ihu Karaiti (Jesus Christ). One of the more interesting innovators in the Christian tradition is Apostle Paul. Most (all) of Paul’s innovation begins when he, like us, goes to the edge.

So in Acts 16, Paul goes to the edge. He hears a man from Macedonia say “come on over.” Paul is a learner. Paul takes a risk. Paul forms a mission team with two others, Timothy and Silas.

And they go to a community in Macedonia called Philipi. In that community, he find some partners. He finds a business woman called Lydia. Together they form prayerful community in the borderlands outside the city

Then he moves to a community called Athens. He takes time in that community to learn the culture, to read their poets and study how cultures gather.

And in each place, in each community, Paul and his mission team, are gaining perspective, seeing more clearly, the Gospel in community.

And in each place, it is only once they get there, only once they begin, only once they listen, that they see light for a next direction.

And for one community, after Paul has left, he sends a letter. And in that letter, we get a glimpse of what it means for Paul to be an innovator.

And so this weekend, as innovators, we will open one of Paul’s letters. It is the letter of 1 Corinthians. It is written to a church that Paul has begun. And in that letter he describes his innovation. The first image is that of servant ….

Posted by steve at 03:00 PM

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

the final lecture – transforming leadership in Vanuatu

The final lecture of my week of teaching at Talua College, was titled Transforming leadership in Vanuatu and I designed the intensive carefully to build toward this final lecture. The aim was to encourage local agency and group application of the lecture material to local context

Talua Memorial lecture

Talua Memorial lecture

On the first day, I had provided two case studies.

Either: You are chairing a leadership meeting. During a discussion of the church budget, two long time members of the church engage in a protracted and tense public exchange. How can you provide effective leadership in this situation (both immediate and during the next week or month)?

Or: You hear news that an overseas company wants to set up a fish factory on an important beach that is part of your village. You are preaching in church the next Sunday. How can you and the church provide effective leadership in this challenge?

Work in a group. Select one of Paul’s images of leadership in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4. Discuss with your group how this one image of leadership might guide your response to the challenge. Be prepared to share with the entire class 2 things you would do and thing you would not do.

I noted that on the final day, I would invite groups to present in relation to the case studies. I had workshopped the case studies with Paula Levy, who had recently served with her husband Roger at Talua.

I was delighted that on the last day, twelve groups presented. 7 chose the first case study, on handling conflict. 3 chose the second case study, on the arrival of a foreign fish factory. 2 groups worked on a 3rd assignment, a case study that had come up in class. This involved forgiveness and the question of whether saying sorry on behalf of someone else would allow genuine reconciliation. It was encouraging to see this level of improvisation occurring over the week and a sense of grounded integration.

Each group was able to clearly work between Biblical text and local context, and offer clear and practical next steps in leadership. 5 groups worked on leader as servant, 1 group leader as gardener, 2 groups leader as builder, 1 group leader as resource manager and 2 groups leader as fool – (With 1 group, my Bislama was not good enough to work out which Pauline image they were using).

11 of the groups presented in Bislama, 1 in English. The staff at Talua gave verbal feedback on each of the group presentations. This was verbal, and involved providing affirmations and suggesting improvements. This ensued some rigour and accountability in the learning process.

So in Bislama, this was nambawan (the best) lecture. It was a class essentially taught entirely by the Ni-Van students, as they grounded the material in their context.

Posted by steve at 12:32 PM

Monday, August 21, 2017

Transforming leadership and ecclesial identities

I’ve just spent 7 days on Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, at the invitation of Talua, a Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu theological college. I was asked to speak on transforming leadership over 20 hours and as I prepared, I found myself trying to think missiologically about leadership: ie the movement from a sending God; through discipleship; to leadership – using the biblical images in my Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration book. Given my 6 years serving with the Uniting Church of Australia, who are also, like the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, a partner church of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, I also found myself thinking about transformation and leadership in light of the Basis of Union. Here is some of what I wrote as a sort of course description for myself:

__________

Melanesian garden, Novata farm

Melanesian garden, Novata farm

Transforming leadership and ecclesial identities

Transforming leadership is located in missiology, in the sending God at work in the world (Luke 10:1-12). Our understandings of leadership begin with God as the active agent, the One who has called the church to serve as a fellowship of reconciliation, a body with diverse gifts, an instrument of witness (Paragraph 3).

As “the people of God on the way” (Paragraph 18), the Protestant church recognises two sacraments, that of baptism and communion. Hence any talk of leadership emerges from baptism, for it is baptism that we are initiated into God’s mission and it is through communion that we are sustained in mission. As it says in the Basis of Union, “On the way Christ feeds the Church with Word and Sacraments” (Paragraph 3). No leader emerges apart from the fact that we are all one in Christ Jesus, all of us saying yes to participation in mission through our baptism, all of us in communion strengthened in order to participate “in the mission of Christ in the world” (Paragraph 8).

An expression of our participation in mission includes the experience in which all members have gifts for which there is a “corresponding service” (Paragraph 13). In 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul explains his ministry, using six images – of servant, gardener, builder, resource manager, fool and parent. In these passages, Paul is explaining what it means for him to be sent to serve, and how his theology of baptism and communion finds expression in his “corresponding service.” Given that through baptism all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:27-28), it makes sense when Paul describes a shared leadership: he labours alongside other servants (Apollos in 3:5), other gardeners (3:9), other builders (3:10), other resource managers (Apollos in 4:6), other fools (apostles in 4:9) and other parents (Timothy in 4:17).

This suggests that Paul’s “corresponding service” is in fact shared by others, who alongside Paul also offer a “corresponding service” as servants, gardeners, builders, fools and parents. The result of these shared acts of service in mission is transformation. At Corinth, individuals are transformed and a church is established. When the six images of servant, gardener, builder, resource manager, fool and parent are read against literature describing the existing cultural understandings of sociality and ethics of the world of Corinth what becomes clear is an alternative ethical polis. As the one body in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:27-28) examines itself in communion (1 Cor 11:28), existing cultural understandings of leadership and influence are challenged. Such a transforming body is made possible by a transforming leadership, one which results when the church serves, gardens, builds, resource manages, acts as a fool and parent.

For every image of servant, gardener, builder, resource manager, fool and parent there are practical tools by which the entire community can serve. Thus transforming leadership has nothing to do with individual heroic leaders. Rather, both missiologically and practically, transformation emerges as God’s people participate with the Sending one in acts of service, gardening, building, resource managing, being a fool and a parent.

__________
In sketching this understanding, I am drawing on a range of recent scholarship including missiology, leadership, indigenous Aboriginal theologies, Biblical theologies, pneumatology, Christology, indigenous theology, New Testament scholarship both Pauline and Gospel, Old Testament narratives and post-colonial hermeneutics. Particularly Ben Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians; Eugene Rogers, The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings; Ben Witherington, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom; Kenneth Bailey, Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15 (Concordia Scholarship Today); Walter Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism and Denise Champion, Yarta Wandatha.

Posted by steve at 03:54 PM

Friday, August 11, 2017

Transforming leadership in Vanuatu: Talua Memorial lectures

I’ve been invited to give the 2017 Talua Memorial lecture, August 14-18, in Vanuatu and address the topic of Transforming leadership. The Presbyterian Church in New Zealand has a long history of relationship with the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu; and Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership has a long history of relationship with Talua College. So it was easy to say yes.

Talua_Ministry_Training_Centre

Until I realised that the Memorial lecture was actually 10 lectures! Gulp. However the topic – leadership – is something I’ve written a book on recently (Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration). And I did some research last year on Christologies in Melanesia, so I had some resource to weave. And Jesus has a lot to say about transforming leadership. So the invitation has provided a good opportunity to turn a book into a one week intensive, and integrate with contextual Melanesian theology.

I’ve had some creative educational fun in the preparation over the last week. I developed an assignment that would allow group work on “what does this mean in Vanuatu?” This included a set of case studies, which I had workshopped by a colleague with many years of experience at Talua. I also had help in the making of a certificate, to encourage assignment participation :)

certificateimage

Posted by steve at 07:29 PM

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Church in Contemporary NZ: Perspectives and Challenges – Whanganui bound

I’m speaking in Whanganui tomorrow evening (August 9, 7:30 – 9 pm) on the theme of The Church in Contemporary NZ: Perspectives and Challenges. The presenting reason is to met an incoming KCML intern, as part of the processes of induction to the KCML internship process. But it fitted really well with the local churches, who have banded together to present 4 evenings on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It’s a really creative and well-put together mix – of film and speaking and interaction – and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

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On the 9th of August, under the heading – The Church in Contemporary NZ: Perspectives and Challenges – I will begin with what was a radical new technology, the printing press. I will use that to reflect on a forgotten hallmark of the Reformed project (according to Michael Jinkins, The Church Transforming: What’s Next for the Reformed Project?), that of innovation – “the capacity to draw from the experience of ancient Christian communities and to adapt these lessons to new situations (Michael Jinkins, The Church Transforming: What’s Next for the Reformed Project?, 105). I will then tell stories of some of the New Mission Seedling innovation I am seeing in New Zealand, including in a new build, post-earthquake suburb in Christchurch and the dream of a new monastic presence among the working class suburb in Dunedin.

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All 4 evenings of evenings will take place at St James Church, Cnr Boydfield/Helmore Streets, Whanganui East. For more info, contact Mo Morgan 021905552 or Angela Gordon 5614314

Posted by steve at 05:07 PM

Monday, March 20, 2017

Unassuming, penetrating, pragmatic and humble: Built for change review

builtforchange Here is the 9th review of my book, Built for Change. This one comes from the United States. Since the book was written with a focus on stories of change from New Zealand and Australia, to have such a positive review from a third country is wonderful.

For lay and clergy leaders looking to rediscover relevancy for the North American church, practical hope comes from down under.

Unassuming, penetrating, pragmatic and humble, Steve Taylor has given us a place to start in “doing church differently,” not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of meaning, for ourselves and others. Accessible, fresh and above all honest, Taylor has expressed in appropriate balance the realities of change, innovation, collaboration and learning so necessary to make sense in this world, a sense-making enabled by biblical wisdom woven with insights from his own direct experience.

There is wisdom here–understanding, not “overspending”–not only for congregational and individual renewal, but for an even broader audience too often seduced by the noise of leadership theory. This is pure signal amidst all the noise. This little book holds a voice you can trust if you are trying to make sense of change, especially if you are wise enough to try to make sense in collaboration with others. Thank you Dr. Taylor for sharing your experience, taking the time and care to reflect upon it, and offering it up to us all.

“Built for Change” by Rev Dr Steve Taylor is available in Australia through MediaCom Education Inc. or New Zealand through Angelwingsresources@gmail.com. It is also available on Amazon Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration.

Review 1 here. Review 2 here. Review 3 here. Review 4 is here. Review 5 is here. Review 6 is here. Review 7 by Darren Cronshaw is here. Review 8 by Uniting Church Moderator, Sue Ellis, is here.

Posted by steve at 09:13 PM

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Presbytery partnerships

Presbytery partnerships are one of five key directions in the KCML strategic plan.

Presbytery partnerships: KCML wish to establish teaching partnerships with each Presbytery. Each will be individualised, given the unique needs of each Presbytery. They will include shared commitments and timelines around the location of New Mission Seedlings and teaching sites for the National Learning Diploma. This move will help KCML be national, forming intentional training relationships with Presbyteries

In the first half of 2016, Presbytery partnerships involved connection. As Principal, I was invited to speak at six of the seven Presbyteries. I spoke at Alpine Presbytery and two Otago events in April, Central ministers in May, Northern Council and Kaimai Ministers in June, Pacific Island Synod in July. This gave me an opportunity to introduce myself as the new Principal. I also used this time to test pieces of the KCML strategic plan. In particular, this involved sharing about innovation and mission and then hearing the questions and being part of conversation about how this landed.

In the second half of 2016, Presbytery partnerships involved explanation. Once the KCML Strategic plan was approved by Council of Assembly in June, I wrote to each Presbytery. I briefly explained the plan and I asked if I could visit their Council to share the plan and to ask how a partnership could be formally adopted.

The aim is clarity with each Presbytery

  • how together – KCML and Presbytery – to identify training needs and shape a five year plan for training
  • how to strategically discern and work together on planting of New Mission Seedlings

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Over the last five months, I have had responses and been able to engage five of the seven Presbytery Councils. My last visit for this 2016 year was this week, when I spent over two hours with Pacific Island Synod. These face to face visits are important step in developing these partnerships. Each Presbytery is unique, and so each visit has been unique. The questions are always different. Different parts of the plan excite different Presbyteries. The pace of developing a partnership will be different for each Presbytery. That is good, because KCML can’t do everything at once. It also means we can run experiments and learn as we go.

Theological Colleges are not ivory towers who (theoretically) know best. Rather, we are shared partners with the church in seeking the mission of God. At the heart of Presbytery partnerships is a desire to practise shared discernment in mission and training.

Posted by steve at 04:31 PM

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Unique mix of biblical models, innovation tools & Australasian case studies

builtforchange Here is a 7th review of my book, Built for Change. This one is by Rev Dr Darren Cronshaw. There is a longer, 750 word version, being submitted to an academic journal, but the highlight version reads wonderfully.

Built for Change goes beyond rhetoric and explores case studies, theological reflection and reflective practice of how innovation can be collaboratively fostered. As an out-of-the-box thinker, Baptist pastor, and Uniting and now Presbyterian theological educator, Steve Taylor emphasises that innovation at its best is a collaborative team project, facilitated by systematic and careful process. The book is a model of clear writing, careful structure and practical theology from a reflective practitioner. It will be recommended reading or textbook in some units I am writing and I have personally ordered a dozen copies as presents for colleagues in theological education and mission training, so I think I can say with integrity that I count this as highly recommended.

Darren Cronshaw
- Mission Catalyst – Researcher, Baptist Union of Victoria www.buv.com.au
- Head of Research and Professor of Missional Leadership, Australian College of Ministries www.acom.edu.au
- Pastor, AuburnLife Baptist Church www.auburn.org.au
- Adjunct Professor, Swinburne Leadership Institute

“Built for Change” by Rev Dr Steve Taylor is available in Australia through MediaCom Education Inc. or New Zealand through Angelwingsresources@gmail.com. Review 1 here. Review 2 here. Review 3 here. Review 4 is here. Review 5 is here. Review 6 is here.

Posted by steve at 06:03 PM

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thornton Blair Research Fellow: Christian Education

Thornton Blair Research Fellow: Christian Education

Do you have high quality research skills, experience in the design of higher education and a passion for educational formation for Christian leadership?

Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership (KCML) is seeking a uniquely gifted person to undertake action research in education design. This will involve undertaking qualitative research among key stakeholders, designing adult education delivery mechanisms and piloting the delivery of education in Christian leadership.

The Research Fellow will deliver a project that helps KCML clarify how to provide postgraduate educational formation for Christian leadership. Specifically to
1. Publish research into re-reforming post-graduate ministry and mission practice in contemporary contexts
2. Design education material that meets both stakeholder needs and higher education accreditation frameworks
3. Develop a strategic plan for education delivery
4. Initiate pilot projects, with stakeholder feedback.

The successful applicant will have experience in Christian education, project management and the use of qualitative methodologies in social sciences. They will have demonstrable skills in theological reflection, the ability to work collaboratively with diverse stakeholders and excellent verbal and written skills, including research and writing.

It is desirable that they have experience in post-graduate accreditation in higher education and teaching in online environments.

This is envisaged as a fixed term (22 months), part-time (0.6) position. Start date is February 2017 and is subject to a final confirmation of funding. The successful applicant need not live in Dunedin, provided they can demonstrate how they might build and sustain strong working relationships with the KCML team.

KCML especially welcomes applications that will enable it to meet its commitments to being a bi-cultural and intercultural church.

Applications close 9 am, Monday, 5 now 12 December, 2016 (7 day extension due to GA and Kaikoura earthquake). They must include a CV; a letter of application addressing the essential and desirable criteria and two references.

Enquiries to Rev Dr Steve Taylor
Principal, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership
principal@knoxcentre.ac.nz

Posted by steve at 07:22 AM

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Presbytery partnerships

In June, the Council of Assembly of the Presbyterian Church strongly endorsed the KCML Strategic plan. One of the five key directions is Presbytery partnerships.

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Presbytery partnerships: KCML wish to establish teaching partnerships with each Presbytery. Each will be individualised, given the unique needs of each Presbytery. They will include shared commitments and timelines around the location of New Mission Seedlings and teaching sites for the National Learning Diploma. This move will help KCML be national, forming intentional training relationships with Presbyteries.

To enact this part of the strategic plan is likely to involve three steps

  • Introduction of plan to Presbyteries (of which in New Zealand there are 7: 5 geographic Presbyteries and 2 Synods that in order to be Synods are each a Presbytery)
  • Clarification of the individualised relationship, through a Memorandum of Understanding that might include a 5 year Presbytery training plan and structures by which to innovate around New Mission Seedlings
  • Delivery, with feedback loops

On Saturday I engaged with Northern Presbytery. For 20 minutes I provided some mission framing, for another 20 minutes I shared the 5 parts of the KCML strategic plan and for a final 20 minutes I sought feedback – what excites and what concerns.

The feedback was overwhelming positive, with the Moderator noting how much it helped the elders and ministers of Presbytery to know that challenges are being recognised and that alternative ways forward as a church are being enacted.

Saturday’s conversation brings to five (out of 7) such conversations – held either with Presbytery Councils or a full Presbytery – since the Strategic plan was approved just over 5 months ago. That’s encouraging progress.

While there is much work still to be done – in clarification and in delivery – it is great to be out and about like this around the church nationally. It is a privilege to be given this type of access and to see the diverse parts of the church at work.

Posted by steve at 06:35 PM

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

art resourcing ministry: 3 images that shape my practice

I drove six hours yesterday, to Geraldine, to spend time resourcing a Ministers cluster. They meet regularly every few months and had asked me tto engage with them for about 4 hours, either side of lunch. After some back and forth with the organisors, I decided I would offer three art pieces that had been important in shaping my understanding of ministry. I had not done this before. But my sense was that the space created by art, along with the mix of story, would add value to a group of ministers who need themselves some space to reflect.

I suggested a repeated sequence, in which we would engage in the following process.
- silence to appreciate the art
- discussion of what we noticed in the art
- my story of why the art was important and how is shaped my ministry
- discussion together of the implications for ministry

I offered three pieces (one was a pair).

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First, (the top of the photo) an original illustration from Bodge Plants a Seed: A Retelling of the Parable of the Sower, which Simon Smith had gifted to me when I began in ministry at Opawa Baptist. This opened up a rich conversation about leadership as gardening, a set of practices in which we attend to what God has already gifted. (More on this is in my book, Built for Change: a practical theology of innovation and collaboration in leadership).

Second, (the bottom of the photo), some art by Kees de Kort, from Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission, 146-8. This opened up conversation about mission that originates with God. It requires partnership, in which we locate ourselves not as initiators and holders of Scripture, but as guests and interpreters.

Third, John Lavery’s Anna Pavlova The Red Scarf paired with a photo of a girl seeking to imitate the dancer. This allowed a even richer conversation about God as the dancer and how we understand formation. It included reflection on the role of gender, to which I offered the followed resources, a compilation of some writing I did during sabbatical in 2012.

Women’s Faith Development: Patterns and Processes (Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology), by Nichola Slee, suggests that our notions of faith development can reflect a male bias. Her work emerges from interviews with 30 women, which resulted in some 1500 pages of transcribed interviews. She then read these narratives alongside a number of conversation partners – faith development theory and women’s spirituality. She suggests these women develop through a three part process,
• of alienation
• of awakenings
• of relationality

She then makes four broad applications, to those in formal theological education, to those involved in any educational or pastoral care context in church life, to women’s networks and groupings.

First, to ground practice in women’s experience. She suggests making a priority of more inductive and experiential approaches to education. She also suggesting bringing to greater visibility women’s lives. (A simple check list I used in this regard, when I used to preach regularly, was check my sermon illustrations and quotes to make sure I had gender balance, as many women examples as men).

Second, create relational and conversational spaces, for “women’s spirituality was profoundly relational in nature, rooted in a strong sense of connection to others, to the wider world and to God as the source of relational power.” (Women’s Faith Development, 173) Slee suggests we look at our environments, ways to create circles not rows, and processes by which everyone speaks no less than once and no more than twice.

Third, foregrounding of imagination, given “the remarkable linguistic and metaphoric creativity of women as they seek to give expression to their struggles to achieve authentic selfhood, relationships with others, and connectedness to ultimate reality.” (Women’s Faith Development, 175). She notes historically how much of women’s theology was embedded in poetry, hymnody, craft forms and popular piety. So we need to find ways to weave this into our “reading” and our talking. “Yet educators need to go beyond the use of such artistic resources to the active encouragement of learners to engage in artistry as a way of exploring and discerning truth.” (Women’s Faith DevelopmentWomen’s Faith Development, 178) Slee is aware that these suggestions are not new. But from her experience of (British) theological institutions, there is room for growth.

A second perspective comes from Ann Phillips, The Faith of Girls: Children’s Spirituality and Transition to Adulthood She asks what Lo-ruhamah in Hosea 1, Namaan’s wife’s slave girl in 2 Kings 5, the slave girl in Philippi in Acts 16, Jarius daughter in the Gospels, have in common?

First, they are pre-pubescent girls. Second, they are agents of new theology. God is made more real, more understandable, more present, through these girls. This is so consistent with Jesus, who takes children in his arms and reminds us that keys to God’s Kingdom are found in them.

Phillips notes that most theologies of childhood have been written by men. She interviews 17 young girls, seeking to understand their faith development. Anne argues for a “wombing” theology as an approach to faith development. It protects and so the need for a “home space.” It enables play, in which the one being birthed is free, away from adult control, to work at their identity. It connects. Regarding church, “membership of a cohort was not enough for the girls to feel a sense of belonging. Intergenerational sharing was named as a significant feature in their attachment to the environment … Girls [interviewed] regularly spoke of the impact on their faith of older people … Most participation was initiated by adults.” (The Faith of Girls, 160)

The approach worked really, really well. The mix of visuals, personal story and ministry application provided multiple entry points. The use of eyes brought a stillness into the room and offered a reflective space. Those not used to engaging art found a strengthening of their skills in the simple invitation to look. The discussion wandered broad and wide, with a degree of honesty, challenge and humour. The four hours flew by.

Personally, it was quite moving, to be taken back into my story. I saw some patterns woven in. I also realised how these patterns continue to shape my current practice and vision. It was a contemplative, holy sort of day.

Posted by steve at 11:05 AM